Billy Abbott, author of Billy’s Booze Blog, shares his love of the local…

I like my flat. As I write I’m sitting on the balcony, 6 floors up, surveying the leafier end of West London with the Wembley arch looking surprisingly big, as it does. It’s a short walk from work, has a bus that goes to town from right outside the door and is mainly inhabited by lovely people. But there’s something missing – a local.
We used to have one, a community centre and bar in the next building over from me, but despite its excellent restaurant, alright pint of Guinness and patronage by the people of the estate it is now closed. This is the first time I’ve lived somewhere without a local pub of some kind, and it feels a bit weird.
As a kid my Dad and Grandfather were linchpins of the local’s darts team, until “The Incident” when they were barred and took half the team with them. We went for a swift half in the beer garden, rain or shine, every Sunday while lunch was cooking and I still have a fondness for drinking Coke through too-thin straws thanks to those afternoons. When I came to London I lived next to my University student union and it sat at the centre of my social life. When I moved one of the key factors in choosing a place to live was what the local would be like – I still look on the Prince Alfred in Bayswater fondly, despite their love of a certain rubbish AC/DC covers band that occasionally drove us elsewhere.
When my friends and I spread to the four corners of the world we still had our local – a pub nominated so that no matter when we were visiting you could be fairly certain that someone would be propping up the bar on a Thursday night waiting for a chat. When the landlord and landlady moved on we went with them and still make pilgrimages to see TJ and Christine in their new home. When I last moved the biggest wrench was no longer having Ealing’s excellent Red Lion, untouched in the recent riots, a mere 2 minutes walk from my door…
However, it strikes me that my current lack is my own fault. I need to make the effort, go for a walk and find my new local. There are candidates but I’ve been too lazy to go and try them out, other than a cursory pint and a glance at their bar menu. It’s a sunny afternoon with a promise of rain later – what better a time to go and do some investigation. Especially as I’ve just been chased inside by a wasp.