All I want for Christmas is . . .

By Janet Eldred

After forty holidays celebrated with family in the States, Christmas Day 1997 will be the first-ever where I'll wake up in England. I expect Santa knows where to find me, though. And, because I've been a good girl this year, here's what I'm hoping the Man in Red will leave in my ready-and-waiting stocking:

1) A guarantee of changed licensing laws for 1998. I'm tired of risking deportation by still finishing my drink at 11.21 pm. Let a free marketplace determine pub closing times, up to a reasonable 1.00 am (2.00 am on weekends).

2) Clearly-visible notices of beer names, their strengths, and their prices (including prices of halves) in all pubs. Sorry, but a faded, type-written sheet behind the bar isn't helpful, especially if it's obscured by a 20-stone regular who won't move for love or money, and I'm not buying him a pint to see if that shifts him.

3) An end to beer snobbery. Go ahead, be enthusiastic about your beer, you can even try to persuade me of its virtues, but don't put down my choice. It may be swill as far as you're concerned, but shut ‘yer trap about it. Thank you.

4) Smoke-free areas in all pubs, so that my hair and clothes (which I take the time to wash, unlike some patrons) don't reek at the end of the night, my food tastes of its ingredients and nothing else, and I might live a few years longer.

5) A wider selection of music either on the juke box or behind the bar. Must I hear "Don't Marry Her" yet again? (Landlords and landladies, if you need a clue, go see the good folks at the Five Lions on Walmgate, great CD selection!)

6) Staff that recognizes a female at the bar as a customer in her own right, not just some man's appendage. One historic city centre pub close by the UFI offices regularly ignores lone waiting females (with money in hand) in order to serve men who have just walked in the door. (You know who you are...)

7) Halves served in tumblers, not stemmed glasses, for said female customers. (What do they do for women who order pints, I wonder?) Beer in a stemmed glass just doesn't taste like beer to me, and it certainly doesn't taste like wine. Let's get the few remaining pubs who practice this "nicety" into the 20th century, before it becomes the 21st.

8) Ladies' toilets with supplies of soap, loo roll, and paper towels, and a functioning hand dryer, all at the same time. (And, have you checked your condom and tampon dispensers recently?)

9) "Two-for-a-fiver" pub meals where you can get just one meal for two pounds fifty, not three pounds seventy-five, or four quid.

10) A winning turn at my next pub quiz, and a prize that can be easily divided amongst the team players.

Of course, this is just my beer-and-pub wish list. There's room in my stocking for bank notes, chocolates, gemstones, a puppy, plane tickets.... Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

© Janet B. Eldred, 1997