On page 200 of my book After America (personally autographed copies of which make a delightful Christmas gift), in relation to the phenomenon of Yorkshire jihadists ("Eee-oop Allahu Akbar!"), I remarked that England is degenerating into "Somalia with chip shops". It was a cheap joke, but one has to be extremely self-disciplined to eschew the low-hanging savaloy. On recent visits to, say, the East End of London, however, I've noticed that almost all the chip shops are gone.
Gee, I wonder why that is.
So I was thinking of updating my gag to "Somalia with pubs". Alas, too late:
Accrington and its surrounding district have lost 50 of 95 public houses since 2001. But why?
So The Observer's Helen Pidd and Rob Davies and photographer Mark Waugh - that's three people - set off to answer why over a quarter of UK pubs have closed since 2001. The eastern part of Lancashire is second only to Newham in East London in the percentage of shuttered hostelries. What could explain it? Could it be the greed of corporate pub chains? The cost to a landlord of a sports TV subscription? The council business taxes? Or is it perhaps the smoking ban? That's what Basharat Khan blames:
The smoking ban. I've been driving a taxi for 29 years and since the ban people don't go out nearly as much. They think 'sod it, I'll stay at home.'
But hang on. Without leaping to conclusions, "Basharat Khan" doesn't sound the name of a, er, regular pubgoer, does it? Well, no. Basharat is a member of the, ah, non-imbibing community. But, as with the late Victor Kiam vis Ă vis Remington shavers, Mr Khan liked the old Hyndburn Inn on the Blackburn Road so much he bought it. And then he converted it into a butcher's shop. A halal butcher's shop.
You don't say!
Actually, Ms Pidd and Mr Davies and Mr Waugh (all very English names increasingly unlikely to be found among the youth of Lancashire) come very close to not saying. Only a couple of paragraphs before the end does one find a vague reference to the, um "changing nature of the community".
"The changing nature of the community" is a polite evasion for demographic transformation, and, as longtime readers know, demography on that scale is assuredly destiny. Take that district with the most closed pubs: the London Borough of Newham. According to the 2011 census, just fourteen per cent of the population are white English, Scots, Irish or Welsh.
Whereas thirty-per cent of the borough is Muslim.
That was 2011. What do you think it is now? And why wouldn't you expect the pubs to vanish?
When I was in Rotherham, I took a lot of taxis and spoke to a lot of taxi drivers - not because that's the lazy writer's easiest way to get the vox populi (see Thomas Friedman), but because the taxis were a critical part of the paedo sex-slavery infrastructure, and many of their drivers were in on it. So, on my last day, I took a cab to Sheffield. Gold Star â€“ one of the taxi firms implicated in the "grooming" ring, and still doing a thriving business apparently. My cabbie was, of course, a Muslim, a genial and garrulous fellow, and so I asked him about the proposals from the victims I'd met for mandatory video and audio in every taxi.
"I support it," he said. "It protects me. There were taxi drivers who were part of the grooming â€“ everybody knows that. But there are a lot more drivers who get falsely accused."
"Of everything. When they had factories, everybody in Rotherham and Sheffield and all round here worked. No one was out of work. Now we have more people out of work than anywhere in the country. And at night they're all drunk. And, if you take two of them home and one of them wakes up with blood on his face and can't remember how he got it, he says the taxi driver beat him up...
"Two things I have never taken," he added, proudly. "Drugs and alcohol."
"So you don't like to pick up customers when the pubs close?"
I caught his pitying smile in the mirror: My understanding of the rhythms of English life was hopelessly out of date. "A lot of the pubs are closing down," he said. "Before GPS, the pubs was how we knew the route. Turn left at the King's Head, right at the Plough & Harrow... Now they're all shutting down."
"Is that because there's more Muslims?"
He laughed. "No. It's because the drinkers prefer to get the cheap liquor from the supermarkets. They drink it at home all day. So they're drunk before they leave the house. Then they just go to a nightclub and they don't have to spend all their money on the expensive drinks because they're already drunk. So they can just dance with a slag and not spend a lot of money."
Unless you're an Observer reporter, it's not hard to pick up on the believers' contempt for the drinking classes - or why for the latter, as "communities" Islamize, going out to get rat-arsed becomes more fraught.
I settled back in the seat, and he glanced at me in the mirror. "You going out tonight?"
I don't think so. In America Alone, I mentioned the famous scene in the film of Cabaret, where the blond Aryan youth sings "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" in a German beer garden. It is the prerogative of youth that tomorrow belongs to them. But in large parts of England the youth to whom tomorrow belongs do not go to beer gardens to sing it.
The Observer story is fascinating - an in-depth report on disappearing rooms by people who won't see the elephants in them.
~Speaking of last calls, as several SteynOnline readers noticed, sometime late yesterday evening, Cary Katz's CRTV network ceased to exist. They've now "merged" with Glenn Beck's The Blaze to become part of Blaze TV. For what it's worth, back in 2016 I advised Katz and his potty-mouthed Chief Content Officer Chris Crane against the CRTV branding, and not only because I have fond memories of the Cameroons. But certain persons insisted on it, so I'm interested to see it's taken them two years to catch up with me and figure out it's going nowhere. So far Katz's second largest shareholder seems to be enjoying it about as well as you might expect, and about as much as the audience. As to what that means for who's now suing me, there will be more to say in the days ahead.
~I am mildly thrilled this week to find myself quoted in a Sotheby's catalogue, and regret only that my dear old dad is not around to see it, as he too enjoyed that honor some years ago. The occasion is not a sale of Bruegels or Rembrandts, unfortunately, but it is certainly an old master. Miscellaneous property of Barbara and Frank Sinatra will be auctioned in New York this coming Thursday, and among the various items you will find Lot 104, a set of personalized golf clubs with a leather bag in Frank's favorite color (orange) and bearing the inscription "The Thin One".
The Thin One? Well, as the catalogue explains:
'The Thin One'â€”emblazoned on the present golf bag as well as some of the personalized golf ballsâ€”was an early Sinatra nickname that was eventually displaced by more familiar ones: The Voice, Ol' Blue Eyes, and The Chairman of the Board. But it had enough cachet still in 1962 that the composer and arranger Neal Heftiâ€”perhaps best known for writing the themes to the The Odd Couple movie and TV series and the Batman seriesâ€”supposedly wanted to name the second of his two terrific collaborations with Sinatra, which was relased as Sinatra and Swingin' Brass, 'Hefti Meets The Thin One.' One version of the story is that Sinatra would not agree to this rather tortured pun and Hefti, irritated, did not work with him again. Hefti maintained that he decided he could never top that albumâ€”Mark Steyn calls it one 'of the best in the history of recorded sound'â€”and simply gave up vocal arranging.
Indeed he did. If you want to know the context of that quotation, see here. I shall be in New York this week in relation to the above-mentioned interminable litigation by Katz and his now vanished "CRTV". So, if all goes well, maybe I'll swing by Sotheby's and bid on the clubs.
~We had a busy weekend at SteynOnline starting with my thoughts on the end of Rudolph the Red-Nosed's reign, dear, and the death of George H W Bush. Our Saturday movie date buttered up Bertolucci and Last Tango in Paris, and our Sunday song selection offered a flash, bam and an indispensable alakazam. The weekend also saw the conclusion of what's proved a very thrilling Tale for Our Time, Baroness Orczy's pulse-racing adventure set during the French Revolution's Reign of Terror - The Scarlet Pimpernel: Click to hear me read the ante-penultimate episode, the penultimate episode, and the ultimate episode - or, if you want to start at the very beginning, settle in for a good old binge-listen here. If you were too busy rescuing French royalists from the guillotine all weekend long, I hope you'll want to catch up with one or three of the foregoing as a new week begins.
Tales for Our Time is made possible thanks to members of The Mark Steyn Club, for which we are profoundly grateful. You can find more details about the Steyn Club here. And don't forget our special Gift Membership, which makes a fine Christmas present, and this festive season comes with a special personalized Christmas card from yours truly and a handsomely-engraved gift-boxed USB stick with three of our most popular Tales for Our Time for your pal or relative to listen to in the car or perambulating through the wilderness or almost anywhere else. (The trio of tales is The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Time Machine and The Thirty-Nine Steps.) For more on our Christmas Gift Membership, see here. And do join me on Friday for the first of this year's Yuletide tales.
Catch you on the telly tonight with Tucker live across America at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific.