Space, the final frontier.
These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its 10 year mission, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and civilisations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.
Captain’s log: We’ve finally returned to earth following the conclusion of an exhausting tour of duty, one spanning a decade.
The year is 2017 and the crews are looking forward to some well-earned R&R. Saving the Universe from a bunch of intergalactic weirdos is thirsty work I can tell you and we’re all absolutely gagging for a decent pint.
I’ve asked Science Officer Spock, Medical Officer Bones and Chief Engineer Scotty to join me in the transporter room. We’re beaming down to a cracking little pub in Norwich to enjoy a well-earned session of responsible drinking.
“Have you keyed in the co-ordinates Scotty?”
Ten seconds later the intergalactic explorers arrive on Earth; unfortunately not quite where they had expected.
“Where the hell are we Scotty?”
“I have no idea.”
“Unless I’m very much mistaken Captain, we’re in the fruit and veg section of Tesco.”
“Scotty, what’s going on?”
“I canna understand it Captain. I was here in 2005; it was a grand little pub.”
“Do you have a logical explanation Spock?”
“I’m starting to pick up readings on my tricorder. In seems that in our absence, the UK pub trade suffered a catastrophic calamity. The pub that was here, along with thousands of others, has quite simply just vanished off the face of the earth.”
“My God, what happened?”
“I don’t know Captain.”
“Gentlemen, we need to return to the ship and get some answers. Where’s Scotty?”
“He’s popped off to the alcohol section Captain. He says the prices there are absolutely unbelievable. He’s stocking up.”
“Well tell him to get back here. There’s no time to waste.”
Back on board the Enterprise.
“Spock; you’ve had a chance to check our databases. Brief us please.”
“I’m afraid I’ve got bad news Captain. The traditional pub we all used to know and love has disappeared; gone forever.”
“How can that be?”
“Well the pub trade was in terminal decline for years. However, the pivotal moment in its demise was a meeting between the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and government ministers at precisely 10:30 am on November 14th 2014.”
“The government finally accepted the BBPA’s recommendations for self regulation of the industry. The BBPA had dragged the process out for so long that eventually the Government lost interest and sanctioned the document. It marked the end for the pub trade.
Self regulation was never going to work; everyone knew that. It merely allowed the abuses to continue. Customers and tenants deserted pubs in droves; pubcos were forced to offload more and more of their estates, eventually there was nothing left to sell.”
“My God, all that heritage and history; wiped out in one decade!”
“Gentlemen, we have to do something. We cannot sit idly by and allow this to happen.”
“Captain, we can’t get involved.”
“We were more than a match for the Romulans and the Klingons. Are you saying we can’t take on the BBPA?”
“Remember the prime directive of non-interference Captain.”
“We’ve got no option Bones. The destiny of the pub industry is in our hands.
Scotty, I want maximum power from your engines. We’re going back in time to 8:30 am on November 14th 2014 and change the outcome of that meeting. The future of the good old British pub depends upon it!”
Captains Log: We have returned to Earth precisely 2 hours before the BBPA and government ministers meet to sanction the code. It is my intention to save what’s left of the pub trade.
The BBPA delegation is headed up by Sara Hardcastle. It seems she’d been appointed 6 months earlier to oversee the formalities.
We plan to beam down to her office where Bones will administer an anesthetic. Spock will then utilise his Vulcan powers, penetrate Sara’s mind and change the course of history.
Time: 8:30 a.m. November 14th 2014
Location: Sara Hardcastle’s Office
Captain Kirk and his companions suddenly materialise in front of a startled Sara Hardcastle.
“Who are you people?”
“The anesthetic Bones, quickly.
OK. She’s out cold. Spock, you’ve got about 30 minutes to get inside her head and save the pub trade.”
“I’ll try Captain.”
“When you’ve finished, erase all memories of this encounter from Sara’s mind and insert a miniature camera in her jacket button. It’ll allow us to watch the outcome of the meeting from the ship.”
Time: 10:30 a.m. November 14th 2014
Minister: “Now then; does anyone wish to speak before we formalise the agreement?”
Sara Hardcastle: “Yes, I would like to say a few words if I may.
The pub trade is facing an unprecedented crisis. The document we are about to sign is a complete sham and does nothing to address the real issues governing the relationship between pub companies and tenants.
It is clear to all that those at the top have one overriding priority; preventing the gravy train becoming derailed. An unenviable task, given that beer volumes are in freefall and pub closures have spiraled completely out of control.”
Rather concerned BBPA member: “Err….Minister, may I speak?”
“Please do not interrupt.”
“As I was saying; the attractive pensions, exceedingly generous bonuses, whopping great severance packages, share option schemes, golden hellos and golden goodbyes all have to be paid for.”
Extremely agitated BBPA member: “Minister, I really must insist……”
“Extortionate rental premiums linked to RPI, annual price hikes on beer and a whole host of other wheezes and scams ensure the fat cats and multitude of leeches and hangers-on that lurk in the shadows continue to get fatter.
Apoplectic BBPA member: “Sara is clearly not herself today. She’s delusional. She doesn’t know what she’s saying Minister!”
“I have to say she sounds very credible to me. Please continue Sara.”
And then of course there’s the unseen administrative army; the Tracys and Sharons of this world whose primary purpose seems to be to wander around with folders under their arms.
From time to time they can be overheard muttering to themselves; ‘They haven’t paid the rent, they haven’t paid for their beer. These people are just taking the p***.’
Do you think Sharon and Tracy sitting in their comfortable offices have any inkling of the misery, torment and heartbreak many of ‘these people’ have to endure on a daily basis? I suspect not.
Are they aware that the overwhelming majority face a life of penury, culminating in eviction and bankruptcy? I suspect not.
You see Minister; tenants have long since ceased to be viewed as human beings.
Like all of us, they possess hopes, dreams and aspirations to build a better life for themselves, but they’ve been dehumanised; relegated to nothing more than mere numbers on a screen.
And as the numbers turn from blue to red, does anybody in pubco land comprehend the real significance of what they’re seeing? I suspect not.
Every red number tells a story Minister; …….every red number tells a story.
The time has come to bring this charade to an end. The interests of the privileged few have prevailed for far too long. Publicans have grown weary of party rhetoric, false promises and meaningless gestures. It is time for meaningful deeds, not more meaningless words.
Minister, may I suggest you take that message back to your right honourable friends in Westminster.”
“Sara, your candour is very much appreciated. Rest assured, I will relay your plea to government.”
Highly optimistic BBPA member: “Err… Minister, I really do think we should proceed with the signing ceremony.”
“There will be no signing today. I agree wholeheartedly with Sara, affirmative action is what is required. It is my intention to recommend this to the House. Good day to you all.”
Back on board the Starship Enterprise
“Scotty, did you beam up those beers you saw in Tesco?”
“At those prices I’d have been a fool not to Captain.”
“Well then go and get them. I think a celebratory drink is in order, don’t you?”