Good news from the Yorkshire Dales, where a village pub that had been closed and was taken over and saved by the villagers has gone from defunct hostelry to winner of CAMRA's National Pub of the Year. The George and Dragon also functions as a village shop and library, and has a community allotment attached, and free internet access - all the kind of things that keep a village alive. But note also what is absent - muzak, gaming machines, phoney decor, gastropub pretensions, all the things that make drinking in many modern pubs such an unpleasant experience. What a good pub like the George and Dragon offers is a place where you can sit quietly and comfortably, talk - and hear what you're saying - meet people (if you want to) and drink good beer or whatever else takes your fancy.
In the suburban village where I live, a closed-down pub was brought back from the dead in similar fashion - bought by the locals and reopened as just such a neighbourhood pub as the George and Dragon (though without the library, shop and allotments - we already have those). It is now so successful that it's sometimes impossible to find a seat - but other than that, it's wellnigh perfect.
This surefire retroprogressive formula is not rocket science (nor is it likely to involve rocket salad). It simply offers the kind of pub that most people who are past their noise-loving youth prefer to drink in - and yet such pubs are hard to find, not least in the London area. One such, by some miracle, survives in Kensington, of all places - the Uxbridge Arms, described by Bryan Appleyard as 'the best pub in the world', and apparently under threat of being sold off. I hope the well-heeled regulars heed the example of the George and Dragon and The Hope (my rescued local) and engineer a buy-out. Then they can preserve this wonderful pub just as it is - perfect.