28 September 2021

Canute

Yorkshireman Humphrey Smith is a wealthy brewer. Nobody knows quite how rich he is but he could easily be a billionaire. Surprisingly, there are hardly any photographs of him in the public sphere. He shuns publicity as a tree shuns leaves in the autumn.

As I said before, my favourite pub in the whole world is "The White Horse" (Nellie's) in Beverley, East Yorkshire. This uniquely characterful pub belongs to the Samuel Smith brewing empire  led by Humphrey Smith.

When I was there a few days ago, I asked a barmaid if I could liberate a beermat and she agreed. Here it is:-

Do you get it? Customers are not allowed to use any electronic devices in Sam Smiths pubs. No mobile phones nor laptops nor tablets. It is a visible emanation of Humphrey Smith's eccentric philosophy. He is like King Canute ordering the tide to turn back.

Here's the reverse of the same beermat:-

Part of me applauds this bloody-mindedness as I much prefer pubs in which the only noise is of people in conversation, enjoying each other's company without any need for televisions or music or electronic devices. Another part of me says that Humphrey Smith's  dictatorial approach will  prove intolerable to many potential customers - especially younger people. How long can this go on? 

Last year Humphrey Smith closed one of his  pubs for good in a fit of annoyance simply because he had overheard a single customer swearing like a trooper.  When you have as much money and as many assets as Humphrey Smith has got, you can afford to do things your own way - even if that is at significant cost.

Oh, and I almost forgot - no other pub chain in England sells its beer as cheaply as Samuel Smith pubs manage to do. A pint of bitter in my local pub costs £3.70 (US $5.00) but a similar pint in a Sam Smith's pub will usually cost £2.05 (US $3.00).
An old photo of Humphrey Smith

41 comments:

  1. Well, I would say that in this case, Humphrey has the right to dictate what he wants in his establishments and customers have the right to refuse to follow those dictates by not visiting the establishments. If he has all the money in the world, I doubt he cares. And I doubt his business will last much longer. I could be wrong.

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    1. Sam Smiths is the oldest working brewery in England. It has been around a long time but not always run in this manner.

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  2. One of these days I shall drop into Nellie's in blithe Beverley and order a pint of best bitter.
    *I'm looking for a guy called Neil,* I'll say, *he owes me money.*

    I'll give it my best Tom Courtenay look, the look he had in Doctor Zhivago, when he was signing death warrants, on behalf of Uncle Joe Stalin the Good Fabian.
    Haggerty

    P.S.
    I like the idea of enigmatic Humphrey Smith, the brewer who walked backwards into the limelight.
    Enigmas intrigue me.
    Take Hamel(d). An enigma and a nutcase. A wee bit creepy but.

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    1. Oh Lordy! I wonder what comes after the "but". Something quite sinister I'll wager.

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    2. What comes after but? Beautiful.

      Read *But Beautiful - A Book About Jazz* by Geoff Dyer.
      Published as a Canongate paperback, it is a brilliant novel about black American geniuses. Men who struggled to make a living in white America.

      Haggerty lent me his copy. He's not getting it back but.
      Hamel(d)

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  3. That would be difficult for me since I love taking photos of food and drink in places. And decor! However, I suppose I could use an actual camera? Luckily, I'm also quite good at conversation and can yakk about nothing for long periods of time. The gift of 37 years as a teacher. ;)

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    1. Teachers are not meant to yakk about nothing Margaret! They are meant to teach knowledge and understanding, self-awareness, discipline, wisdom and of course the ability to pass exams.

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  4. Eccentric may be a word to describe this guy. what other different behaviors does he have? However well priced beer! the guy can't be all that bad.

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    1. When an old bridge was washed away in Tadcaster by flood water he would not allow the council to build a temporary pedestrian footbridge from his land.

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  5. Ive had many conversations enriched by the sharing of a funny video or a quick google to confirm a point. I like the sentiment of keeping things social but in this case the baby is being thrown out with the bath water. The low prices might draw people in but others will vote with their feet

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    1. You are right. I think it is kind of foolish to ignore reality.

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  6. I like the beer prices. Haven't been in a pub since 2019 and that was a Wetherspoon's in Kent. The times and our drinking habits are definitely changing.

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    1. Regarding beer prices, Sam Smiths are even cheaper than Wetherspoons.

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  7. Oh dear. What happened to the people who lost their job when he closed that pub?

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    1. Good point JayCee. Of course there would be legal hoops that he could not avoid with regard to redundancy payments.

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  8. How very polite and respectful to ask if you could take the beermat. What would you have done if she'd said no?

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    1. I would have accepted that response and walked away without the beermat. Stealing is stealing.

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  9. What a breath of fresh air. More places should do this.
    Briony
    x

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    1. I tend to agree with you. His pubs don't sell any food either.

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  10. What a brilliant idea YP, but somehow I don't think it will catch on anywhere else in the world these days. It's not as though they are banning the things for eternity - though it may seem like that to many - but just in their pubs. If you know the rules, and don't agree, then you go elsewhere. The annoying ones are those customers who will deliberately use their phones, then become argumentative and sometimes abusive, claiming it's their "right".
    I have visions of all the deprived lining up to get their "fix", along with the smokers in the car park!

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    1. These days mobile phones have become like dummies (American: comforters) for adults. They have caused me no end of annoyance. I guess I am a bit of a humphrey myself.

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  11. While I do get this 'put your devices away' movement, it is impractical dinosaur thinking. Most young people seem to manage their phone use, social media and personal relationships perfectly well.

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    1. He is trying to ignore the fact that this is 2021 and not 1921.

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  12. For the Humphrey Smiths of the world, I offer:

    Canute (994?-1035)
    by Robert H. Brague


    I, King of all the Britons, and Denmark mine as well!
    My star approaches zenith! In Caesar’s train I dwell!
    More kingdoms to be conquered! And all shall be laid low!
    And feudal lords shall bear me liege wherever I may go!

    And shall I stop at kingdoms? Nay, tarry here and see!
    The winds and waves shall hearken, and both bow down to me!
    No more shall raging ocean erode this harried shore!
    But it shall do my bidding, as Christ’s in days of yore!

    No more shall sea advance upon the gray and shifting sand!
    Now cease your endless churning! Subside at my command!
    It is Divinely ordered! You must obey my will!
    In God’s name I command you! Hear and hearken: “Peace! Be still!”

    But can I be mistaken? And can I be denied?
    My words have no effect! Still onward comes the tide!
    The swirling eddy rises! The tide attacks my knees!
    It hears commands more regal than this lowly creature’s pleas!

    God’s kingdom is eternal, mine but of measured span!
    What foolishness emerges from the haughty heart of man!
    I am but mortal monarch! O, hear my fool’s heart cry!
    ‘Tis chastened by the deafness of a greater king than I!

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    1. Thank you for sharing this Bob. I wonder who or what that "greater king" might be?
      In particular, I appreciated your use of "harried", "churning" and swirling".
      I seem to remember that you posted this fine poem on your blog some ten years ago.

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  13. I like the rules of the pub and we adopt similar rules at meal times and other family designated times in our house.

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    1. Family mealtimes should be special events every day - around a table.

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  14. A £2 pint is pretty impressive, but it seems to me that Humphrey is basically thumbing his nose at younger customers. He's catering to old(er) guys who want pubs the way they used to be. Which is fine, but let's face it -- it's not a marketing approach geared toward growth. Maybe he doesn't care.

    Even I, at the ripe old age of almost 55, would be hesitant to go to a pub where I couldn't look at my phone occasionally -- or bring my laptop to type up a blog post!

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    1. I would report you to the landlord or landlady and beam like a lighthouse when I watched you being thrown out. Sorry.

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  15. The 'Vic' (Victoria), a much loved pub by Beeston Station in Nottingham, used to have a similar rule about mobiles etc. I was sad to see, last time I was there, that the rule no longer applied.
    Cheers, Gail.
    PS I came to visit this blog as your comment (about spelling) on 'The Bike Shed' blog made me laugh out loud!

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    1. Glad to have given you a nice chuckle Gail!

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  16. I love this idea!

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    1. It may be old-fashioned but I also like it.

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  17. With beer now at an average of £6 per pint (how crazy is that!) I doubt very much if I shall be visiting my local too often. However, I do remember one very special evening there. The pub' was particularly crowded, and suddenly someone started singing. Then others joined in. Then more. A classic 'Flash Mob', it was a really wonderful experience. I think the singers were all from some musical show in town.

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    1. Sadly, there are no Sam Smiths pubs in Brighton.

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  18. Wonder if the Jolly Sailor in Whitby has that strict ruling they sold Smith's beer and delicious crisps. There was a lovely old lady who would grace that establishment, she would sit there sipping her glass of wine and reading her magazine. Also locals in the corner glaring at strangers ;)

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    1. It does follow the very same rules Thelma.

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  19. Sometimes a no device zone is desirable. Just for a little while, we return to interacting on a face-to-face level. I would enjoy such a place.

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    1. It is good for me too but if it drives young people away then ultimately it's not good.

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  20. I guess for those who are attached to their phones, it just boils down to how much they like those low prices and the company they keep. I'm sure many a boring conversation has been terminated by glancing at a phone then making excuses about needing to return a call or text.

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    1. I prefer it when people are interacting in the here and now with people around them but of course I don't have a mobile phone (cell phone).

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

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