Christmas is coming and you’re wobbling on the platform
Christmas is rattling along the rails in our direction and it is at this time of year my thoughts often turn to what was, at one time, among my very favourite festive drinking haunts in Preston.
The old bar at Preston Railway Station.
Some of my favourite spots for a glass are station bars, and are usually enjoyable places to grab an early evening jar at any time of the year.
All bustle, people with luggage heading this way and that, or dressed to the nines for a big night out, or fancy dress stags and hens, everyone excited, places to go, things to do.
Christmas merely magnifies and multiplies the phenomenon.
On any given evening in late December (up to around 8pm) all human life will pass through the bar at Preston railway station – and any mainline equivalent – and it’s usually worse for drink.
This trend builds steadily up until the last Friday before Christmas week (Mad Friday as it is lately known– it was always demented, of course, just didn’t have a name) when, for one magical evening, the bar becomes the place where every third work do goes to die.
These are the precise circumstances in which I first became acquainted, draining a last glass while keeping a bleary colleague company as they kept a wary glazed eye on the boards for their ride home.
I was charmed straight away by the grubby sticky smoky cramped dimly lit dump. Vinyl jukebox in one corner, wonky pool table another, derisory grimly trimmed tree collapsed by the bar.
Duff beer selection. Row of optics length of a baby’s forearm. One bottle red, one bottle white gathering dust somewhere, I would expect.
Like having a pint in 1973. Those pubs you sat outside with a Vimto and bag of crisps until your folks were suitably refreshed.
I returned frequently, all the year round, delighted to find that, other than the tree, which came and went, nothing ever changed. Reliably Busy. Murky. Scruffy. Half decent tunes. What’s not to like?
Everything, it emerged, and earlier this century this shabby dingy oasis of lingering postwar consensus hospitality followed British Rail down the memory hole.
Hero’s Bar now, left. The back wall which once boasted a fine booth from which to survey the whole bleak saloon knocked through, to create one big shared space with the latte sippers and magazine rifflers.
Bright. No music. No pool.
Recent evenings suggest many festive afternoon sessions still hit the buffers thereabouts, but there will be blood on the tracks before I get back on board.