George Orwell was one of the most influential authors of the 21st Century. He is most famous for writing the novels 1984 and Animal Farm. The concepts of Big Brother in relation to the security state and CCTV originate in his books.
It is less well known that in 1946 he wrote an essay in the Evening Standard about the perfect pub. He never found a pub that met his criteria.
This is our guess on what, over 75 years later, George Orwell would think of The Steam Crane.
What he would like, before he walks through the door, is the Steam Crane, is ‘only two minutes from a bus stop’.
As he comes through the door, he is looking for ‘atmosphere’, so we think he will like that. He describes that as a ‘place with perfect beer, but most importantly people come for the conversation’ and sociable elements of meeting and talking to interesting people.
In terms of atmosphere George also wanted, “No pianos and noise levels, quiet enough to talk.” We don’t have a piano, and while we like great playlists, we do try and keep the volume where it’s possible to have a conversation without shouting.
What he will also like is the crowd at the Steam Crane is such that “drunks and rowdies never seem to find their way there, even on Saturday nights.”
We would also get a tick, for ‘having a garden with trees, tables, and chairs. Ok, our trees are not huge, but technically they are trees, all be it, in large pots.
George Orwell was a keen fan of ‘draught stout’, and we not only have that, but we have a variety of other stouts in bottles and cans.
His perfect pub was family friendly, and we like to think we are. He refers to, “children fetching drinks for their parents”. The alcohol licencing laws now prevent this, which we feel is a good thing. I am not sure how much would be lost on the journey to the table, with a round of drinks, carried by a teenager.
In our upstairs bar, we have two fireplaces, and we have one downstairs, so we have more than his minimum of two. Fireplaces of the 1940’s would of course be coal or wood based, and for the modern age, we are now electric.
In terms of furniture layout and design, we can get positive ticks, for “plenty of elbow room”, “no flying darts” and “no sham architecture”.
In terms of team interaction with guests, our team does work to, “know regular guests by name and take a personal interest.”
Turning to things he maybe, would not find to his liking, is the absence of a “solid lunch of a joint of meat, two veg and boiled jam roll”. The Steam Crane kitchen is closed, until at least the end of 2024, so George would need to call for a Deliveroo. Even so, he may struggle to get a boiled jam roll.
Looking at snacks, back in his day, he was looking for “liver sandwiches, mussels, cheese pickles and caraway seed biscuits”. Not sure our crisps, are that varied.
Rather bizarrely, his ideal pub, was a place where the team, choose to have their, “hair dyed in surprising colours”. He was also keen on the “bar staff to be middle aged women, who refer to everyone as dear” and have a separate part of the pub designated as a “ladies’ room”. Society has progressed a long way since those days.
George envisaged in his perfect pub garden, that he would find “children’s swings and a slide”. We don’t think there is room in the garden for this.
He also wanted beer to be served in, “pewter mugs or strawberry pink china mugs and never in straight beer glasses without handles”. We have never tried this, maybe we should?
He also wanted a pub to have an off-licence, or as he called it, a “bottle and jug”, and also sell “aspirin, cigs, tobacco and stamps”, which we don’t.
In summary, apart from not selling food, which we will again do one day, we think his only disappointment would be the presence of CCTV cameras, and the impact of their potential misuse, and the potential for tracking of the all the phones we carry.
On the ground floor of the Steam Crane, like in almost every other hospitality business and public building, there would be multiple cameras recording his moves.
As the very author of the term Big Brother, and despite his views of the day, on a ladies only drinking room, he was a thought leader in the potential challenges of the surveillance state, many decades before those issues became more prominent in our society.