by Ian Clayton
I’ve always written close to home. When I first started writing, everybody I asked said that I should write about what I know about. I’ve stuck to that ever since, so all of what I write takes place were I’m from. Wherever I have lived, I have never been more than a stone’s throw from a local pub. My new book It’s The Beer Talking: Adventures in Public Houses comes out at the end of February. I suppose the title tells you most of what you need to know about what is inside its covers. Yes it’s about beer and pubs and because it’s a memoir, it’s about what I’ve got up to in ale houses over the years. I hope it’s funny. I wanted to write a comedy, so it would be a bit of a bugger if it didn’t make folk laugh. There are one or two sad bits in it as well, because even in pubs, life isn’t always funny ha ha. Like my other writing, it is based on memories and emotions and characters I have known. Most of it is true, some bits are made up and the rest, well, if it isn’t true, it ought to be!
I’ve written a lot of books, but I’m not always sure what to say when people ask me what my books are about. Perhaps my best known book is Bringing it all Back Home. It’s about music. All sorts of music, from music hall to the blues and pop. Then again it’s not really about music at all, it’s about where music has taken me and how it shapes me. Another more recent book is Song for My Father. I generally say that one is a book about my dad. Yet I didn’t know my dad for most of my life, so it’s a book about looking for him, what happened in the few months after we were reunited and mostly about what happened when we weren’t in each others lives. It’s The Beer Talking follows a similar template. There’s plenty of beer in it, a lot of laughter, one or two tears and now and again a bit of bawdy banter. It’s just a book of stories that take place against a backdrop of the public house. These stories are about the joy of joining in, celebrating who we are and the quest to find the perfect pint. There are journeys here and discovery, but because our favourite pubs are usually in our own back yard, it’s a book that takes place near home. In many ways it’s a book that takes delight in localness, the simple pleasure of where we are from, wherever that might be.
The book starts with my first taste of beer, in a smoke-filled working men’s club, then rattles like a boxful of dominoes through more than half a century of backstreet boozing all over the world in that rare old haunt we call the public house. In a time when local pubs are closing down at an alarming rate, the book is a bit of a call to treasure them. I say this because I believe that pubs are like libraries. More than any other buildings near where we live, they are storehouses of our communal knowledge. At times snapshots of our neighbourhood, at other times a refuge from what’s going on outside, but always somewhere familiar and welcoming. I love the pub most of all, because that is where over the years I have found a lot of friendship. Come to think of it, It’s The Beer Talking is a book about friendship. As a matter of fact, all of my books are about friendship. If you like books about beer, pubs, fun and friendship, you might want to give it a try.
“Ian’s book is brimming with laughter, tall stories, great memories and endless rounds of wonderful beer. It’s also a call to arms to save this unique institution.”Roger Protz, Editor Good Beer Guide 2000-2018
It’s The Beer Talking: Adventures in Public Houses is published by Route on 28th February 2019. For more details visit www.route-online.com
This article was featured in Issue 2 – March 2019.